Pumpkins are herbaceous plants which belong to the family Cucurbitaceae and are widely grown in Pacific Northwest. The optimal growth conditions of pumpkins include; temperate oceanic climate, sunny conditions, warm soil of pH ranging from six to seven and temperature of between sixty to seventy degrees Fahrenheit. The type of soil required for growth of pumpkin should be well-draining with plenty of organic material. Pumpkins are tender herbs which grow annually.
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Low temperatures of below 50 degrees Fahrenheit such as those that occur during spring and fall are known to cause stunting or slow growth in pumpkins. Pumpkins require enough water to grow well, but care should be taken to ensure their leaves remain dry at all times. The soil should be kept warm at all times. Heat and humidity provide a conducive environment for the development of powdery mildew; a major disease which affects pumpkins (Preparing your Garden).
One way of keeping the leaves dry is by ensuring that the pumpkins are watered early in the morning to give them sufficient time to dry during the day. This, in essence, protects the pumpkins from diseases which are known to thrive well in damp conditions. However, watering of pumpkins should be done less frequently and the soils must have good water retaining capacity (How Much to Water Pumpkins).
Pumpkin seeds are planted on small heaps of soil with a depth of between one to two inches and spacing of four to six feet. A plant with fully grown leaves and roots is used as a transplant. Spacing is also an essential requirement for pumpkin growth. Pumpkins require a lot of tourists home, and therefore the soils need to have sufficient organic matter.
Areas, where pumpkins grow, should also be free from weeds, and other crops as these are known to compete with pumpkins for the available nutrients Reducing weeds is achieved by using plastic and organic mulches that also help to conserve water and hence minimize the frequency of watering. Most common parasites that affect pumpkins are squash vine borers and cucumber beetles (Preparing your garden). Frequent dusting and spraying can prevent these parasitic infections.
Squash Vine Borers (SVB’s) are a nuisance to pumpkin farmers. Squash Vine borers are known to destroy pumpkin vines from the inside. The disease can be fatal to the pumpkins if untreated.
The signs and symptoms of Squash Vine Borers infestations include; wilting, sudden changes in ripening, holes and sawdust-like power on the vine. Once the vine is infested with Squash Vine Borers, the only remedy is complete removal using a sharp object after which fungicide is applied to the area of infection. However, removal causes more harm to the vine (Teuro).
A variety of pumpkin diseases such as powdery mildew thrive well in areas with high temperatures and humidity. To be on the safe side, farmers are advised to apply fungicides the moment the disease symptoms are detected. This is advantageous since fighting the disease once it has spread can be quite costly (Preparing your garden). Pumpkins and microbes form symbiotic relationships. Microbes found in the soil contribute to the growth of pumpkins by enhancing soil fertility and aeration.
They help in the breakdown of organic matter within the soil that makes up humus of the soil. While some microbes are pathogenic, others help in nitrogen fixation in the soil, they also breakdown and hold together in-organic compounds in the soil; this helps in improving polluted soils. Bigger organisms in the soil facilitate aeration and formation of good soil structure thus improves the soil’s capacity to retain water.
Mutualism between pumpkins and other organisms such as earthworms, beetles, and termites are crucial since they provide the nutrients for optimal growth of pumpkins. Bacteria in the soils and root nodules of some plants aid in nitrogen fixation whereas fungi aid in the decomposition of non-biodegradable materials (Board of Agriculture).
The humus formed helps in the absorption of minerals by plants and also assisted in stabilizing the soil pH. Because of its dark color, it aids in energy absorption from the sun. The quality and productivity of the soil are of importance in the growth of pumpkins since it is the medium where plants derive nutrients for growth.
It is therefore important that soils should be preserved from degradation and the use of chemicals minimized while encouraging natural farming methods. Mutualism is therefore very critical for the growth of pumpkins and other plants without which they will not grow well.
Board of Agriculture. “Soil and Water Quality: An Agenda for Agriculture. USA.” National Academy Press. USA. 1993. 184-197.
How Much to Water Pumpkins. Pumpkin Growing Tips. 2005. Web.
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Preparing your Garden. Pumpkin Growing Tips. 2005. Web.
Teuro, Higo.” Effective Microorganisms: A New Dimension for Nature Farming.”Japan University of the Ryukyus.Japan.1997.2-8.